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Before we ponder the “O” Antiphons during the days before Christmas, let us reflect upon their author, Isaiah, the prophet of the Holiness of God.

Well educated, knowledgeable of his times, familiar with intricacies of the Hebrew language and the prophetic tradition, gifted in public speaking, familiar with royalty and the court, Isaiah was a pious man, husband and father. The year was 740 B.C.E.

While Isaiah was serving in the Temple, the vision of six burning ones, called seraphs, terrified him: he knew he was in the presence of Yahweh. He also knew what was coming: the call to become a prophet, but only with his assent. It had happened to others. Yet uncleanness sifted his hard-won virtue into soot.

The story continues: one of the seraphs took a pair of tongs, scooped up a burning coal from the brazier, touched Isaiah’s lips, then said, …your iniquity is purged.  

Then came the question from within the smoke: Whom shall I send? Who will be my messenger?

With no hesitation, Isaiah said, Here I am. Send me. Others had received such callings to guide His wayward people into the way of love and obedience, according to the Mosaic Law. He would, too.

And work Isaiah did until his martyrdom under the idolatrous Judean King Manasseh, forty years later.

Yet, because Isaiah’s person and preaching were so compelling, devotees continued his prophecy, adding sixteen more chapters to the Old Testament Book that bears his name.

From this lowly prophet Isaiah—an unparalleled witness to the Holy—we savor the names of God embedded in the Great “O” Antiphons of Advent. Their inspiration lightens the darkness.

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